I’m here at the Colorado Media Matters panel facing down John Marshall, campaign manager for Bob Beauprez. I wish I had a “Bed-wetting Liberal” name tag.
Without further ado.. On the panel:
Jeff Thomas, editor, The Gazette
John Temple, editor/publisher, Rocky Mountain News
Elizabeth Skewes, Asst. Professor, CU School of Journalism
Adam Schrager, political/govt reporter, 9News
Greg Moore, editor, Denver Post
John Marshall, Bob Beauprez campaign
Evan Dreyer, Bill Ritter campaign
Quick hit responses by moderator Bill Menezes:
How did the media do on campaign coverage?
Marshall: “I don’t believe that the media coverage is responsible for our loss. It’s easy to take on a bitter tone and to lay the blame on someone else’s lap.”
He pointed out that the way the Rocky did their candidate profiles was the most fair and even-handed coverage in the election because the same reporter followed the story through the duration of the election cycle.
Dreyer: “We did win. And the press covered everything perfectly.”
In talking about tone, he mentioned that some outlets had more fun. Used Channel 4’s “dinner with the candidate” feature as an example.
The reporters could have spent more time on the campaign trail to inform readers about the rigors of campaigning.
Skewes: “I knew more about pie recipes than about the candidates” in response to the Channel 4 feature.
Does she read Daily Kos?
Brings up the very salient point of whether the inside baseball coverage of polls, etc., matters to voters as much as policy and ideas.
Temple: “There are certain things that we did (larger photos, etc.) that send a message.”
Temple discussed the issue of uncovering the DA/agricultural tresspassing charge story that was lost when the reporter who received the initial tip died of a heart attack and it got lost in the grieving of a colleague and the pace of election coverage.
Moore: “Ad watches were better this year than in a while. I think we did a good job being balanced.”
He remarked that half of the metro staff was tied up on election and issue coverage.
Schrager: “The checks on the commericals are the most important thing we do. You cannot cover elections on television legitimately” because of time limitations.
He said that 9News had 2.5 million hits on the website on election night.
“I am troubled by the lack of third party coverage on elections” and mentioned Eric Eidsness as an example of a candidate who was polling 7-9 percent but was ignored.
How does the Internet affect political coverage?
The conversation veers to the use of the web for election and political coverage as convener of information rather than authoritative purveyor. Welcome to the tubes, fellas.
Skewes and Temple disgaree on the web audience’s interest in politics. Schrager said that 200,000 unique visitors went to 9News’ website for campaign information.
Skewes cited 2004 research that people still rely heavily on TV and newspapers rather than the web. 2006 research is not yet available.
Do campaigns use the web as a communication vehicle or was it an after-thought?
Dreyer: “People make decisions based on 8 minutes of paid television time.” Loops back to third party candidates not getting coverage because they can’t raise the money to run ads.
Marshall: Talking about internet fundraising “we didn’t hit Joe Trippi levels…”
Whaaaat? Is Marshall a devotee of “Trippi the Jedi”?
What was the effect of the 527s?
Moore: “I was sick and tired of the 527s… It was all flying so hot and heavy that we didn’t pay attention to it.”
Temple said that the 527 ads do affect news story coverage and brings up the examples of the anti-Paccione 527 ads.
While Temple raised the issue of 527s using headlines and news coverage in their own ads, he failed to bring up that story accuracy (or not) and positioning by the media plays a role in the negative coverage that occurs for and against candidates and issues.
Schrager talks about how campaigns used the ad watch stories for the first time to atack their opponents.
He also mentioned that a “mailer watch” is not being conducted by the media and those mailers may be more egregious than TV ads.
Does paid media shape news coverage?
Skewes said that it does and the by-product is it often focuses attention on bad ads and buys it more leverage.
How much consideration was given by the campaign to use ads to talk to voters versus drive media coverage?
Marshall remarked that the outcomes of elections are significantly affected by 527 ads.
“The specter of waking up in the morning to 527 ads, that are purportedly there to help your candidate, are not helpful to the voters,” he said because of the lack of control on the message.
Dreyer talks about the lack of 527 help for Ritter until the “Both Ways Bob” meme was taken up by the progressives.
Dreyer also mentioned that ad watch programs affected the internal discussions on paid media. Marshall agreed that candidates were concerned about truth in advertising because they had to directly defend the message where 527s and PACs do not.
Questions from the audience:
How do you strike a “fair and balanced” stance?
Thomas: We fail a lot and we succeed a lot. We can try to serve those principles. There’s a reason why this profession enjoys free speech protections.
Moore: It’s a ridiculous statement about objectivity and neutrality. Balance and fairness are hard to achieve because there are so many people involved in a story and deadline pressures.
Temple said that “The Stump” column is one of the paper’s most popular features and it provides the layering of information about campaigns. It’s critical for us to ask ourselves and the candidates tough questions.
Schrager said that there is no way to win the argument of “fair and balanced” because readers/viewers interpret stories using their own prisms. He alludes to the public spat between him and Colorado Media Matters with a laugh.
Temple talks about the prioritization of ballot issue coverage with limited resources.
Do you think the campaign was treated with fairness and balance?
Dreyer said that there is a place for biased and edgy coverage in the media
Marshall riffs a snarky response that Dreyer has the misfortune of having to deal with the media everyday because he won and that he [Marshall] can be more honest. Ouch!
“With a few exceptions, the lion’s share of reporters analyze were they are coming with a fair perspective.” Oooh.
How did the blogs affect your reporting?
Moore: “It depends on who is doing the blog. Our people look at blogs just like other media. There aren’t many instances where a blog became a page one story. Blogs are a good contribution to the political environment.”
Yay. Temple mentioned the Berens story!!!
Thomas: “If our reporters weren’t reading blogs, they should be.”
Schrager: “I’ll look at them.” Mentions that the FCC requires Tv stations to respond to viewer questions so his limitations with the Internet is in answering email questions/comments.
Hey, Adam. Check your email. XX OO, Wendy
Did your press strategy involve the blogs?
Marhsall remarks that the more prominent blogs were critical of Beauprez and had stated political goals.
Hmmm, what about those BREAKING POLICE SIREN stories from the rightwing blog that should not be mentioned? Heh.
Dreyer talked about releasing information to the blogs to get it out there. “Blogs are a blessing and curse” because of inaccurate information being put forward.
Menezes wraps up the panel by directing folks to the CMM website for a videotape of the panel presentation. I’ll have a link up soon.
UPDATE 12-8-06: Video link to post-election panel discussion.